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Gun owners lambast police for gun licence “chaos”

The South African Gun Owners Association has criticised the SAPS for the huge backlog in gun licence applications.

Six killed

Image via: Adobe Stock

South African gun owners have lambasted the police for what they describe as the “chaos which reigns supreme” in its processing of gun licence applications at all levels. 

Gun Owners South Africa national chairman Paul Oxley, reacting to the SAPS’s admission this week that it was experiencing delays in the processing of gun licence applications, said the association was well aware of the backlog which had been a problem for years.

National Police spokesperson Vish Naidu said the South African Police Service Central Firearm Registry had been experiencing delays in processing firearm licence applications due to various reasons, in particular, the Covid-19 pandemic. He said police officers had to comply with Covid-19 regulations to self-isolate and this had been a leading cause of delays in recent months.  The processing of applications was taking up to 120 days, Naidu said.

However, Oxley said the firearm licence processing backlog was an ongoing problem unrelated to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gun licence backlog

“We are well aware of the horrendous mismanagement and chaos which reigns supreme at station, provincial, and national level regarding licensing. We predicted this years ago,” Oxley said.

“The simple fact of the matter is that the SAPS has never been capable of performing the admin functions which the FCA (Firearms Control Act) mandates them to, be it within 90 days, 120 days, or even years in many instances.”

Oxley said the SAPS had refused in 2004 to implement the electronic connectivity upon which the FCA had been based.

“The chickens have been coming home to roost regularly ever since,” he said.

Oxley said the SAPS had a backlog of about 950 000 licences in 2009 which had led to gun owners obtaining a High Court Order that had deemed all previous licences, permits and authorisations to still be valid. 

Court order declares licences valid

“This is an order which is still in force today, and the backlog is worse,” he said.

He added that former Acting National Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane had issued an internal memo in 2019 instructing designated firearm officers to cease processing late renewal applications in an apparent attempt to forestall the growing backlog. 

“To attempt to blame this all on Covid 19 is merely the latest in a long litany of SAPS incompetence,” he said. 

“We know that there are still approximately 350 000 ‘green licences’ in play. We know that when we obtained an urgent interdict against SAPS in 2018 that there were by SAPS’ own estimate 416 000 expired white licences at stake,” Oxley said.

“SAPS refuses, or is unable, to produce any stats whatsoever despite their rejection of our formal access to information request on licensing,” Oxley said.

READ: Police mitigate firearm licence backlog